Unexpected costs are happening in trucking business mainly because of the improper maintenance.
As a good fleet manager or truck-owner operator you want to minimize your costs, and lowering these costs means avoiding any type of cash out situations.
To reduce such risks, you have to take actions proactively. By performing quality and scheduled preventive maintenance – PM, you will do just that
It’s simply nature of the business that requires keeping maintenance schedules up. Carrying loads, stop and go driving, getting stuck into traffic jam, is all affecting truck utility, one way or another.
OK, so you want to do this right and on time. In this article I am going to highlight some crucial moments of this constant process, and emphasize the importance of preventive maintenance.
Making a Maintenance Calendar
Mechanical failures are often cause of truck accidents, and they come from maintenance deficiencies. Most common are:
- oil-contaminated or out of adjustment brakes
- under inflated tires
- improperly installed hub assemblies
- irregularly maintained steering components etc.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – FMCSA part 396 set standard for truck maintenance. It requires at least one Periodic Maintenance Inspection – PMI in period of 12 months.
But this is hardly enough, since a truck operations require PMI to be done more than once a year, especially if you are doing long-hauls.
The best thing would be to walk around your vehicle with your technician and make a list of checks and categorize them as annually, monthly, weekly, and even daily checks.
This way you can make an electronic calendar that can alert you about maintenance checks.
Preventive Maintenance Program Importance
PM is basically means doing a regular service, inspections and repairings in order to avoid problems on vehicle.
It is based on time, fuel, mileage, engine hours and includes actions like lubrication, adjustment, cleaning etc.
If not done according to schedule, consequences are reduced vehicle life span and safety risk increased.
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It’s important to point out that if accident happens due lack of maintenance or repair, fleet manager can be considered responsible. Investigation can seek a maintenance records if vehicle malfunctions are determined.
If PM hadn’t been done, the manager could be prosecuted for a negligent act he or she failed to prevent.
You can do maintenance and/or repairs in two ways: proactively and reactively. Preventive methods means doing component repairs and driver inspection by schedule.
The goal should be performing scheduled maintenance for all vehicles.
PM Program and Service Checklist
Effective PM Program is consisted of following:
- Checklist of PM service tasks performed.
- PM service interval or frequency to perform tasks.
- Driver written-up inspections and/or complaints.
- An automotive facility with trained professional automotive technicians
- Manual or electronic scheduling and recordkeeping.
According to Government Fleet, during PM service, all this should be addressed:
- engine oil and filter changes
- transmission fluid; fuel system
- cooling system
- engine and transmission mounts
- drive shafts or CV joints
- belts and hoses; tune-ups
- electrical system components
- braking system
- steering and suspension system
- tires, wheels, and rims; exhaust system
- undercarriage and frame
- exterior and interior lights
- body, glass, and mirrors
- windshield wiper system
- seat belts and seat structures
- fluid leaks and
- auxiliary systems
What Should Driver Monitor?
To prevent unexpected breakdowns and repairs, a driver should be part of PM program and monitor safety and drivability items such as brakes, tires, steering, misfire and more. Also, he/she should take care of body and miscellaneous repair items.
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A driver is responsible for inspecting vehicle, and should do it before, during and after a trip to notice potential problem. To do it properly, vehicle operator have to be trained for inspection procedures.
PM program is a team work, and only like that it can be performed successfully.
Let’s stick a little bit with following checks I find especially important.
Changing oil is something you don’t want to forget, if you’re expecting quality and long lasting truck. Depending on manufacturer, you’ll have different recommendations for schedules, but do it every 2 to 3 thousand miles, and you won’t make mistake. A good practice is to change the filter every time you’re changing oil.
Transmission and Rear Ends
When driving a regular car you are advised to change transmission fluid and filter after a 50 thousand miles. Also, a rear end has the same schedule. With trucks, you should cut this schedule in half and do this after 25 thousand miles.
Most of the trucks are carrying loads and that is making your vehicle heavier than average. Because of that, chances of lower air pressure in tires and consequently generated heat, are getting increased.
All this will result in two unwanted outcomes:
- tires will age faster because of heat
- low tire pressure will affect stability on the road.
So, how should manage all this?
Checking tire pressure frequently, like every week, seems like an obvious answer. However, to save your tires (and yourself), raise the tire pressure slightly over the written recommendation.
Another thing important about tires, is making the even wear. You will achieve this by rotating tires every couple of thousands miles. This way, you’ll also make mechanics work more efficient, since he will be able to spot abnormalities much easier.
Engine Fluids and Coolants
You have noticed by now, that a truck driver is checking everything more often than average car driver. Engine fluids and coolants are no exception to that, especially the ones delivering around the town.
Added strain on automatic transmission are requiring frequent checkings. Coolant services are usually done every 2 years, although coolant types are good for 5 years
Suspension Components and Shocks
Carrying more weights cause shocks and suspension components to wear quicker than usual, and make drive more dangerous. That’s why regular checking is a must do for trucks.
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Inspection List Before and After Trip
I would like to conclude this section with a useful pre and post trip inspection list I’ve found on Shipperoo :
- Check All Lights and Signals: This includes any not working marker lights, tail lights, headlights, high beams, low beams, and turn signals.
- Check Tire Tread on All Equipment: The tire thread must be greater than 4/32 on steer position and 3/32 on all other tire positions.
- Check for Oil Leaks: Oil leaks may happen in the engine area, transmission, differentials, and/or wheel seals.
- Check Air System for any Leaks
- Make Sure the ABS Light on the Trailer Functions Correctly
- Check for Proper Oil and Coolant Levels
- Check for Cracks in the Windshield
- Check Brake Shoes for Cracks
- Check Air Hoses for Rubbing or Chaffing
Making schedule can be done manually or by using fleet management software. Obviously, majority is using more efficient automated system, for they are available and adjustable to all fleet sizes.